Saturday, May 30, 2009

EVOLUTION: THE GRAND EXPERIMENT

This is a 2-part book review. On Monday I'm going to give you my full thoughts, so this is just a teaser. All I can say is WOW, this book is a great resource, and I'm learning a lot. The pros/cons of evolution has always been an interest of mine, and this book fits perfectly. More on Monday!



It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Evolution: The Grand Experiment

New Leaf Publishing Group (October 8, 2007)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Dr. Carl Werner received his undergraduate degree in biology with distinction at the University of Missouri, graduating summa cum laude. He received his doctorate in medicine at the age of 23. He was the recipient of the Norman D. Jones Science Award and is both the author of Evolution: The Grand Experiment book and executive producer of Evolution: The Grand Experiment video series.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $29.99
Hardcover: 262 pages
Publisher: New Leaf Publishing Group (October 8, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0892216816
ISBN-13: 978-0892216819

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Origin of Life:

Two Opposing Views


What Are We to Believe?

How did life begin? One view is that an all-powerful God created the universe and all forms of life. Another view proposes that the universe began billions of years ago as a result of the big bang. Later, life in the form of a bacterium-like organism arose spontaneously from a mixture of chemicals. Subsequently, this single-cell organism slowly began to evolve into all modern life forms. A third view is that life evolved, but God formed the first living organism and then helped the process along.


The Origin of Life

How life came about has been the subject of debate for almost as long as mankind has existed. Did life originate as a result of the intervention by a supernatural deity? Or did life come about as a result of natural laws acting over time? Scientists continue to search for definitive answers to these questions.

The publication of Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1859 was a significant catalyst in propelling man’s search for a natural understanding of past and present life. Unraveling the mystery of how life began and how life may have changed over time has been the focus of many scientists. Since Darwin’s theory first made public, scientists have collected over 200 million fossils, described the structure of DNA, and identified how genes are passed on to the next generation. These major scientific developments provide us with relevant and thought-provoking information. They lead us to pause and examine our ideas in view of today’s ever-increasing and heated debate over the history of life on earth.

The purpose of this book is to address these important scientific discoveries and present the reader with rare and remarkable facts concerning the origin of life — from spontaneous generation, through Darwin’s ideas on evolution, to the present-day understanding of mutations and natural selection


Americans Are Split on Their Beliefs.

According to a Gallup poll taken in 2006, many Americans believe that God created man in the last 10,000 years. This is surprising given the fact that scientists have been teaching evolution for more than a century.

Do most Americans not believe the theory of evolution because it is implausible? Do they not believe evolution because of their religious views? Or, do they not believe in the theory because they are unfamiliar with its concepts?


What do you think?


(chart showing many Americans surveyed don’t believe Darwin’s theory)


Do You Believe in Evolution?


CON:

“No, I don’t believe in evolution at all. I think if you just look at the facts, it’s pretty clear, it just can’t be.”


“Did we come from monkeys? I don’t know. There is evidence for it, but there is also some stuff missing, so making that leap with a missing link there, I have some problems with that.”


“From what I’ve seen and heard, we have not evolved from apes for the simple fact that apes are still around. I mean, if we evolved from them, why are they still here?”


PRO:

“Yes, I do believe in the theory of evolution because I think that we had to come from some place and you know from ape to man to what we are today. I definitely believe in evolution.”


“I think it’s a very sad thing that we’re getting religious views mixed up with governmental involvement with education. I think it’s a sad comment on how people are trying to fix what they see as social problems in today’s world by falling back on religious dogma.”


Evolution: Scientists Can’t Agree

Ever since Darwin’s time there have been scientists who strongly disagree with the theory of evolution. But since the middle of the twentieth century, there have been a growing number of scientists who reject the theory of evolution based on the discovery of processes and structures of which Darwin was unaware. These scientists cite multiple “lines of evidence” that evolution did not occur, including gaps in the fossil record, problems with the big bang theory, the amazing complexity of even the simplest organisms, and the inability of scientist to explain the origin of life using natural laws.

Scientists who support evolution state that the evidence for the theory is clear and overwhelming. They offer observations of natural selection in action, the evolution of birds from dinosaurs, the evolution of man from apes, as some of the most convincing proofs for evolution.


Con: “Life could not have created itself. Theories on the origin of life, that is the evolutionary origin of life, are modern-day fantasies; they are fairy tales.” – Dr. Duane Gish, Biochemist, Institute for Creation Research.


Pro: “You really have to be blind or three days dead not to see the transitions among these. You have to not want to see it.” – Dr. Kevin Padian, Paleontologist, University of California, Berkeley.


Evolution and Education

Recent Gallup polls reveal that the majority of Americans want both evolution and creationism taught in public schools. This is somewhat surprising given the fact that the majority of scientists believe in evolution and dismiss supernatural creation theories as myths.

There are different reasons parents want both theories taught to their children. Some refer to a sense of fairness. They want their children to learn both sides of the issue and then decide for themselves.

The problem of how to teach students such a controversial topic is challenging for educators. Some fear that teaching two opposing theories would confuse the students while some believe this approach would encourage students to think critically and openly about the world around them. Others believe that creation is a religious idea and should not be taught in government schools.


(Poll asking, “Do you think creationism should be taught in public school science classes?” 54%, yes; 22% no; 24% unsure)


What Should Be Taught?

“I believe it is good for students to get a balance of both sides so that they can make up their minds for themselves without being forced into one way or another. I know that if I went to school and they taught all evolution, that I would feel somehow a little gypped.”

“I do feel that everyone is capable of making their own decisions, and I think that students, even at a young age, should be respected enough to be given various kinds of information, various amounts of information, and let to make their own decisions.?

“I really don’t have a problem with evolution being taught in the schools just so long as all the information is given and it is shown that it is not quite fact. And it needs to be very scientific in its presentation as far as listing its faults and its strengths. I think that science that only lists strengths, and not weaknesses, in not science at all.”


Friday, May 29, 2009

IT'S LIKE THEY HAVE A CAMERA IN MY HOME...

This is one quiz that's almost spot on--except I'm not sure if I'm ready for whatever life throws at me, LOL!

Yes, I am a pony tail. Come back and tell me what you are!!!



You Are a Ponytail



You are energetic, laid back, and a lot of fun. You are ready for whatever life throws at you.

Your idea of style is looking presentable. You prefer simple, well fitting, and neat clothes.



At your best, you are productive, inspiring, and full of live. You love to be active.

At your worst, you are hyperactive and frenzied. Sometimes it's hard for you to calm down.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wo-Wo-Woooo-Wo-Wo-Woooo

The first concert I ever attended was Howard Jones, way back in '87 (or '88?) I totally sound like an old codger, but this song takes me back. Yesterday Sharon Ball posted on favorite bands of the 80's, which is what got me to thinking. Anyhoo, of course I had to share with you all. Plus, HoJo is the only dude who can get away with jamming in an orange suit, and you gotta love BIG HAIR.

Crank the bass...and I dare you to sit still....



If only music today were as uplifting as this:

Treating today as though it was the last, the final show
Get to 60 and feel no regrets
It may take a little time, a lonely path, an uphill climb
Success or failure will not alter it.

OK friends, let's hear your favorite 80's songs/artists/memories.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A SEASON OF OPPOSITES...

...is hopefully drawing to a close.

Have you ever gone through a season with God where every prayer uttered from your lips was answered with the opposite of what you asked for? (Seriously, I'd like to know I'm not alone.) This is the season I've been walking through for what seems like several months. 

A few quick examples:

*Before I bought a laptop, I prayed not to get a lemon. Less than 24 hours later I was returning...a lemon.

*I prayed for my family's health, and soon thereafter they got sick.

Those are the smaller examples, in addition to several requests too private to name, some that have dragged on for years. It kind of makes a girl skittish to pray, and anyone who has asked me to pray for them is...well...brave. Still, I cling to the hope that He loves me and wants good things for me and my family, because this is who He's shown Himself as over the years.

Yesterday morning I prayed a specific prayer that was answered within a few hours. Yes, HOPE! I'm hoping (dare I pray???) that the season of opposites is over. 

Now, here's the real deal: because of God's promises, we know that not every prayer could have possibly been answered with a no. If we ask him for bread, He won't give us a stone, even if it feels that way. After all, we walk by faith--and that's why it's called faith, because we can't always see the results. When God was positioning the Israelites for release from Egypt, things got a whole lot worse for them before they walked away with the plunder.

A few weeks ago, Betsy suggested that I start a prayer journal to record my actual prayers and God's responses. Interestingly enough, that same week I had a conversation with the pastor's wife, and she told me about the prayer journals she'd kept over the years, and how it affected her life. Talk about a holy nudge!

Encouraged, I went out and bought a thick notebook--and it wasn't just because I have a long-standing love of office supplies. I believe God might want to show me a thing or two. Someday I want to look back and see His hand in all of this--kind of like Esther, where His providence was all over the place, even if it wasn't obvious on the surface. 

Question to you: have you ever kept a prayer journal? How has it affected your walk with Him? Or, have you ever gone through a season similar to mine, and what did you learn? 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

MAN, I HOPE THEY WORK IT OUT....

I almost hate to confess this, but I couldn't wait to watch the season premier of Jon & Kate Plus 8, largely due to all the recent press. For several seasons this was my favorite reality show, but then I stopped watching when they stopped seeming like a regular family just trying to make it. Still, when all the tabloid ruckus started I just had to know how the whole thing would play out because it's almost like the whole scandal is happening to a family member.

All I can say is I hope this couple can work out their problems. Whatever kind of contracts TLC has with this family, I do wish they'd consider taking the show off the air so they can work out their issues in private. 

In other news...THIS sorta creeped me out (until I found out how it worked). Type in your name and see yourself. It's a little scary how exposed we are these days. 

Favorite reality shows? 
CITY OF THE DEAD

I do so love the occasional historicals written in first person. Ancient Egypt has always been a source of fascination for me, and it's so rare to find it in fiction--happiness for me! The combination of history and mystery, along with a satisfying spiritual thread, made City of the Dead a winner.


It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


City of the Dead (Seven Wonders Series)

B&H Books (March 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



From her earliest childhood, there was nothing Tracy loved better than stepping into another world between the pages of a book. From dragons and knights, to the wonders of Narnia, that passion has never abated, and to Tracy, opening any novel is like stepping again through the wardrobe, into the thrilling unknown. With every book she writes, she wants to open a door like that, and invite readers to be transported with her into a place that captivates. She has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel and Jordan to research her novels, and looks forward to more travel as the Seven Wonders series continues. It’s her hope that in escaping to the past with her, readers will feel they’ve walked through desert sands, explored ancient ruins, and met with the Redeeming God who is sovereign over the entire drama of human history.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (March 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805447318
ISBN-13: 978-0805447316



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue

In my dreams, it is often I who kills Amunet. Other nights it is Khufu, in one of his mad rages. And at other times it is a great mystery, destined to remain unknown long after the ka of each of us has crossed to the west.

Tonight, as I lay abed, my dreams reveal all the truth that I know.

Merit is there, like a beautiful lotus flower among the papyrus reeds.

“Hemi,” she whispers, using the shortened form of my name in the familiar way I long for. “We should join the others.”

The tufts of reeds that spring from the marsh’s edge wave around us, higher than our heads, our private thicket.

“They are occupied with the hunt,” I say.

A cloud of birds rises from the marsh in that moment, squawking their protest at being disturbed. Merit turns her head to the noise and I study the line of her jaw, the long curls that wave across her ear. I pull her close, my arms around her waist.

Her body is stiff at first, then melts against mine.

“Hemi, you must let me go.”

Some nights in my dreams I am a better man.

“Merit.” I bury my face in her hair, breathe in the spicy scent of her. “I cannot.”

I pull her into my kiss.

She resists. She pushes me away and her eyes flash accusation, but something else as well. Sorrow. Longing.

I reach for her again, wrapping my fingers around her wrist. She twists away from my grasp. I do not know what I might have done, but there is fear in her eyes. By the gods, I wish I could forget that fear.

She runs. What else could she do?

She runs along the old river bed, not yet swollen with the year’s Inundation, stagnant and marshy. She disappears among the papyrus. The sky is low and gray, an evil portent.

My anger roots me to the ground for several moments, but then the potential danger propels me to follow.

“Merit,” I call. “Come back. I am sorry!”

I weave slowly among the reeds, searching for the white flash of her dress, the bronze of her skin.

“Merit, it is not safe!”

Anger dissolves into concern. I cannot find her.

In the way of dreams, my feet are unnaturally heavy, as though I fight through alluvial mud to reach her. The first weighted drops fall from an unearthly sky.

And then she is there, at the base of the reeds. White dress dirtied, head turned unnaturally. Face in the water. My heart clutches in my chest. I lurch forward. Drop to my knees in the marsh mud. Push away the reeds. Reach for her.

It is not Merit.

It is Amunet.

“Amunet!” I wipe the mud and water from her face and shake her. Her eyes are open yet unfocused.

I am less of a man because, in that moment, I feel relief.

Relief that it is not Merit.

But what has happened to Amunet? Khufu insisted that our royal hunting party split apart to raise the birds, but we all knew that he wanted to be with Amunet. Now she is alone, and she has crossed to the west.

As I hold her lifeless body in my arms, I feel the great weight of choice fall upon my shoulders. The rain pours through an evil gash in the clouds.

Khufu is my friend. He is my cousin. He will soon wear the Double Crown of the Two Lands of Upper and Lower Egypt. And when Khufu is Pharaoh, I will be his grand vizier.

But it would seem that I hold our future in my hands now, as surely as I hold this girl’s body.

I lower Amunet to the mud again and awake, panting and sweating, in my bed. I roll from the mat, scramble for a pot, and retch. It is not the first time.

The sunlight is already burning through the high window in my bedchamber.

The past is gone. There is only the future.

And I have a pyramid to build.




1

In the fifth year of Khufu, the Golden Horus, Great in Victories, Chosen of Ra, as the pyramid rose in the desert like a burning torch to the sun god himself, I realized my mistake and knew that I had brought disorder.

“Foolishness!” Khons slapped a stone-roughened hand on the papyri unrolled on the basalt-black slab before us, and turned his back on the well-ordered charts to study the workforce on the plateau.

I refused to follow his gaze. Behind me, I knew, eight thousand men toiled, dragging quarry stones up ramps that snaked around my half-finished pyramid, and levering them into beautiful precision. Below them, intersecting lines of men advanced with the rhythm of drumbeats. They worked quickly but never fast enough.

My voice took on a hard edge. “Perhaps, Khons, if you spent more time listening and less blustering—”

“You speak to me of time?” The Overseer of Quarries whirled to face me, and the muscles in his jaw twitched like a donkey’s flank when a fly irritates. “Do you have any idea what these changes mean?” He waved a hand over my plans. “You were a naked baboon at Neferma’at’s knee when he and I were building the pyramids at Saqqara!”

This insult was well-worn, and I was sick of it. I stepped up to him, close enough to map every vein in his forehead. The desert air between us stilled with the tension. “You forget yourself, Khons. I may not be your elder, but I am grand vizier.”

“My good men,” Ded’e interrupted, his voice dripping honey as he smoothed long fingers over the soft papyrus. “Let us not quarrel like harem women over a simple change of design.”

“Simple!” Khons snorted. “Perhaps for you. Your farmers and bakers care not where Pharaoh’s burial chamber is located. But I will need to rework all the numbers for the Giza quarry. The timeline for the Aswan granite will be in chaos.” Khons turned on me. “The plans for the queen’s pyramid are later than grain in a drought year. A project of this magnitude must run like marble over the rollers. A change like this—you’re hurling a chunk of limestone into the Nile, and there will be ripples. Other deadlines will be missed—”

I held up a hand and waited to respond. I preferred to handle Khons and his fits of metaphor by giving us both time to cool. The sun hammered down on upon the building site, and I looked away, past the sands of death, toward the life-giving harbor and the fertile plain beyond. This year’s Inundation had not yet crested, but already the Nile’s green waters had swelled to the border of last year’s floodplain. When the waters receded in three months, leaving behind their rich silt deposits, the land would be black and fertile and planting would commence.

“Three months,” I said. In three months, most of my workforce would return to their farms to plant and till, leaving my pyramid unfinished, dependent on me to make it whole.

Khons grunted. “Exactly. No time for changes.”

Ded’e scanned the plateau, his fingers skimming his forehead to block the glare, though he had applied a careful line of kohl beneath his eyes today. “Where is Mentu? Did you not send a message, Hemiunu?”

I looked toward the workmen’s village, too far to make out anyone approaching by the road. Mentu-hotep also served as one of my chief overseers. These three answered directly to me, and under them commanded fifty supervisors, who in turn organized the twelve-thousand-man force. Nothing of this scale had ever been undertaken in the history of the Two Lands. In the history of man. We were building the Great Pyramid, the Horizon of the Pharaoh Khufu. A thousand years, nay, ten thousand years from now, my pyramid would still stand. And though a tomb for Pharaoh, it would also bear my name. A legacy in stone.

“Perhaps he thinks he can do as he wishes,” Khons said.

I ignored his petty implication that I played favorites among my staff. “Perhaps he is slow in getting started today.” I jabbed a finger at the plans again. “Look, Khons, the burial chamber’s relocation will mean that the inner core will require less stone, not more. I’ve redesigned the plans to show the king’s chamber beginning on Course Fifty. Between the corbelled ascending corridor, the burial chamber, five courses high, and the five relieving chambers that will be necessary above it, we will save 8,242 blocks.”

“Exactly 8,242? Are you certain?” De’de snorted. “I think you must stay up all night solving equations, eh, Hemi?”

I inclined my head to the pyramid, now one-fourth its finished height. “Look at it, De’de. See the way the sides angle at a setback of exactly 11:14. Look at the platform, level to an error less than the span of your little finger.” I turned on him. “Do you think such beauty happens by chance? No, it requires constant attention from one who would rather lose sleep than see it falter.”

“It’s blasphemy.” Khons’s voice was low. It was unwise to speak thus of the Favored One.

I exhaled and we hung over the plans, heads together. Khons smelled of sweat and dust, and sand caked the outer rim of his ear.

“It is for the best, Khons. You will see.”

If blasphemy were involved it was my doing and not Khufu’s? I had engineered the raising of the burial chamber above ground and, along with it, Khufu’s role as the earthly incarnation of the god Ra. It was for the good of Egypt, and now it must be carried forward. Hesitation, indecision—these were for weak men.

“Let the priests argue about religious matters,” I said. “I am a builder.”

Ded’e laughed. “Yes, you are like the pyramid, Hemi. All sharp angles and unforgiving measurements.”

I blinked at the observation, then smiled as though it pleased me.

Khons opened his mouth, no doubt to argue, but a shout from the worksite stopped him. We three turned to the pyramid, and I ground my teeth to see the workgangs falter in their measured march up the ramps. Some disorder near the top drew the attention of all. I squinted against the bright blue sky but saw only the brown figures of the workforce covering the stone.

“Cursed Mentu. Where is he?” Khons asked the question this time.

As Overseer for Operations, Mentu took charge of problems on the line. In his absence, I now stalked toward the site.

The Green Sea Gang had halted on the east-face ramp, their draglines still braced over their bare shoulders. Even from thirty cubits below I could see the ropy muscles stand out on the backs of a hundred men as they strained to hold the thirty-thousand-deben-weight block attached to the line. Their white skirts of this morning had long since tanned with dust, and their skin shone with afternoon sweat.

“Sokkwi! Get your men moving forward!” I shouted to the Green Sea Gang supervisor who should have been at the top.

There was no reply, so I strode up the ramp myself, multiplying in my mind the minutes of delay by the stones not raised. The workday might need extending.

Halfway up the rubble ramp, a scream like that of an antelope skewered by a hunter’s arrow ripped the air. I paused only a moment, the men’s eyes on me, then took to the rope-lashed ladder that leaned against the pyramid’s side. I felt the acacia wood strain under the pounding of my feet, and slowed only enough for safety. The ladder stretched to the next circuit of the ramp, and I scrambled from it, chest heaving, and sprinted through the double-line of laborers that snaked around the final ramp. Here the pyramid came to its end. Still so much to build.

Sokkwi, the gang supervisor, had his back to me when I reached the top. Several others clustered around him, bent to something on the stone. Chisels and drills lay scattered about.

“What is it? What’s happened?” The dry heat had stolen my breath, and the words panted out.

They broke apart to reveal a laborer, no more than eighteen years, on the ground, one leg pinned by a block half set in place. The boy’s eyes locked onto mine, as if to beg for mercy. “Move the stone!” I shouted to Sokkwi.

He scratched his chin. “It’s no good. The stone’s been dropped. We have nothing to—”

I jumped into the space open for the next stone, gripped the rising joint of the block that pinned the boy and yelled to a worker, larger than most. “You there! Help me slide this stone!”

He bent to thrust a shoulder against the stone. We strained against it like locusts pushing against a mountain. Sokkwi laid a hand upon my shoulder.

I rested a moment, and he inclined his head to the boy’s leg. Flesh had been torn down to muscle and bone. I reached for something to steady myself, but there was nothing at this height. The sight of blood, a weakness I had known since my youth, threatened to overcome me. I felt a warmth in my face and neck. I breathed slowly through my nose. No good for the men to see you swoon.

I knelt and placed a hand on the boy’s head, then spoke to Sokkwi. “How did this happen?”

He shrugged. “First time on the line.” He worked at something in his teeth with his tongue. “Doesn’t know the angles, I suppose.” Another shrug.

“What was he doing at the top then?” I searched the work area and the ramp below me again for Mentu. Anger churned my stomach.

The supervisor sighed and picked at his teeth with a fingernail. “Don’t ask me. I make sure the blocks climb those ramps and settle into place. That is all I do.”

How had Mentu had allowed this disaster? Justice, truth, and divine order—the ma’at—made Egypt great and made a man great. I did not like to see ma’at disturbed.

On the ramp, a woman pushed past the workers, shoving them aside in her haste to reach the top. She gained the flat area where we stood and paused, her breath huffing out in dry gasps. In her hands she held two jars, brimming with enough barley beer to allow the boy to feel fierce anger rather than beg for his own death. The surgeon came behind, readying his saw. The boy had a chance at life if the leg ended in a stump. Allowed to fester, the injury would surely kill him.

I masked my faintness with my anger and spun away.

“Mentu!” My yell carried past the lines below me, down into the desert below, perhaps to the quarry beyond. He should never have allowed so inexperienced a boy to place stones. Where had he been this morning when the gangs formed teams?

The men nearby were silent, but the work down on the plateau continued, heedless of the boy’s pain. The rhythmic ring of chisel on quarry stone punctuated the collective grunts of the quarry men, their chorus drifting across the desert, but Mentu did not answer the call.

Was he still in his bed? Mentu and I had spent last evening pouring wine and reminiscing late into the night about the days of our youth. Some of them anyway. Always one story never retold.

Another scream behind me. That woman had best get to pouring the barley beer. I could do nothing more here. I moved through the line of men, noting their nods of approval for the effort I’d made on behalf of one of their own.

When I reached the base and turned back toward the flat-topped black basalt stone where I conferred with Khons and Ded’e, I saw that another had joined them. My brother.

I slowed my steps, to allow that part of my heart to harden like mudbricks in the sun, then pushed forward.

They laughed together as I approached, the easy laugh of men comfortable with one another. My older brother leaned against the stone, his arms crossed in front of him. He stood upright when he saw me.

“Ahmose,” I said with a slight nod. “What brings you to the site?”

His smile turned to a smirk. “Just wanted to see how the project proceeds.”

“Hmm.” I focused my attention once more on the plans. The wind grabbed at the edges of the papyrus, and I used a stone cubit rod, thicker than my thumb, to weight it. “The three of us must recalculate stone transfer rates—”

“Khons seems to believe your changes are going to sink the project,” Ahmose said. He smiled, his perfect teeth gleaming against his dark skin.

The gods had favored Ahmose with beauty, charm, and a pleasing manner that made him well loved among the court. But I had been blessed with a strong mind and a stronger will. And I was grand vizier.

I lifted my eyes once more to the pyramid rising in perfect symmetry against the blue sky, and the thousands of men at my command. “The Horizon of Khufu will look down upon your children’s grandchildren, Ahmose,” I said. I leaned over my charts and braced my fingertips on the stone. “When you have long since sailed to the west, still it will stand.”

He bent beside me, his breath in my ear. “You always did believe you could do anything. Get away with anything.”

The animosity in his voice stiffened my shoulders.

“Khons, Ded’e, if you will.” I gestured to the charts. Khons snorted and clomped to my side. And Ded’e draped his forearms across the papyrus.

“It must be gratifying,” Ahmose whispered, “to command men so much more experienced than yourself.”

I turned on him, my smile tight. “And it must be disheartening to see your younger brother excel while you languish in a job bestowed only out of pity—”

A boy appeared, sparing me the indignity of exchanging blows with my brother. His sidelock identified him as a young prince, and I recognized him as the youngest of Henutsen, one of Khufu’s lesser wives.

“His Majesty Khufu, the king, Horus,” the boy said, “the strong bull, beloved by the goddess of truth—”

“Yes, yes. Life, Health, Strength!” I barked. “What does Khufu want?” I was in no mood for the string of titles.

The boy’s eyes widened and he dragged a foot through the sand. “My father commands the immediate presence of Grand Vizier Hemiunu before the throne.”

“Did he give a reason?”

The prince pulled on his lower lip. “He is very angry today.”

“Very well.” I waved him off and turned to Khons and Ded’e, rubbing the tension from my forehead. “We will continue later.”

The two overseers made their escape before Ahmose and I had a chance to go at it again. I flicked a glance in his direction, then rolled up my charts, keeping my breathing even.

Behind me Ahmose said, “Perhaps Khufu has finally seen his error in appointing you vizier.” Like a sharp poke in the kidneys when our mother wasn’t watching.

“Excuse me, Ahmose.” I pushed past him, my hands full of charts. “I have an important meeting.”

Monday, May 25, 2009


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Jillian Dare: A Novel

Revell (May 1, 2009)

by

Melanie M. Jeschke



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Melanie Morey Jeschke (pronounced jes-key), a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and graduated from University of Virginia as a Phi Beta Kappa with an Honors degree in English Literature and a minor in European and English History.

A free-lance travel writer, Melanie contributed the Oxford chapter to the Rick Steves’ England 2006 guidebook. She is a member of the Capital Christian Writers and Christian Fiction Writers as well as three book clubs, and taught high-school English before home-schooling most of her nine children. Melanie lectures on Lewis and Tolkien, Oxford, and writing, and gives inspirational talks to all manner of groups, including university classes, women’s clubs, young professionals, teens, and school children.

A fourth generation pastor’s wife (her father Dr. Earl Morey is a retired Presbyterian minister), Melanie resides in the Greater Washington, D.C. area with her children and husband Bill Jeschke, a soccer coach and the Senior Pastor of The King’s Chapel, an non-denominational Christian church in Fairfax, Virginia.



ABOUT THE BOOK

Jillian Dare leaves her Shenandoah Valley foster home behind and strikes out on her own as a nanny at a large country estate in northern Virginia. She is delighted with the beauty of her new home, the affection of her young charge Cadence Remington, and the opportunity for frequent travel to the Remington castle in England.

She is less certain about her feelings for her handsome but moody employer, Ethan. In spite of herself, Jillian realizes she is falling for her boss. But how can a humble girl ever hope to win a wealthy man of the world? And what dark secrets from the past is he hiding? This contemporary story, inspired by the well-loved classic Jane Eyre, will capture readers' hearts.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Jillian Dare: A Novel, go HERE

Friday, May 22, 2009

I'M PRETTY SURE I DIDN'T WANT TO BE TOILET PAPER

As you may have noticed--or not noticed--I haven't been keeping up regularly around here. Mostly due to random chaos, and when I'm home I need to do stuff. Like clean. That's why this quiz caught my eye, and gives you, my friends, a wee glimpse into the scary bathroom that is my mind.




You Are Toilet Paper



You have a fearless spirit and an iron stomach.

You aren't easily grossed out, and you enjoy breaking taboos.



While you are wild, you are also helpful. You don't mind doing the dirty work.

You are persistent and thorough. When you do something, you make sure and get the job done.



I'd say this quiz is about 50% right. Let's hope you fair better than I. Come back and let me know!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

GREAT STUDY COMES TO A CLOSE

Last night I finished my Esther: It's Tough Being A Woman bible study--and I sobbed. Not because it was over, but because even at the end the life-changing words stirred my soul. God has used this study like a scalpel (sometimes like a machete!) to cut away the diseased parts inside me and replace them with His truth.

A few things jumped out at me, either from Beth Moore's own words, or snippets from my personal time:

*Odd how human behavior has remained unchanged over time. Notice the similarities between The Book of Esther and The Bachelor. All those women beautifying, then vying for the attention of one man.

*Mordecai was the trustworthy one who was overlooked. Man, I've often identified with him.

*Everyone will have a crisis, and it's a crisis that pivots our direction and gets us back on course. Also, learn to discern because a crisis and an inconvenience. (This is sage advice for a drama queen like me, LOL!)

*The section on courage where Esther says, "If I perish, I perish" really gutted me. I'm not known for courage--ask anyone I've drafted to squish a spider. This is an area where I could really grow, but man, praying for courage would be like praying for patience and I'm not ready to go there.

*Don't wait on The Thing, wait on the Lord. I blogged on this before, and basically most of us have A Thing we look at to satisfy us instead of looking to Him. Time to refocus!

*God is working, even when we're not seeing anything happen. I am not forgotten. I'm part of His plan. This one is easy to forget when you're a housewife/mother.

*Most of all I learned to LOVE in-depth Bible study. It's been a long time since I've done one, but the refreshing time that comes with it is amazing!!!

I know I asked you all a few weeks (maybe months) ago, but what has been the Bible study that has most impacted you? Is it time to dig into another one? 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

MEET MY FRIEND SHEBA

Or more correctly....Toshiba. 

After all my techno trials and tribulations (don't you just love melodrama?) with the Dell Studio busting within the first 24 hours, I now have a Toshiba Satellite 6916. Whee. Gotta love a new toy. However, I have to say I'm still skittish about putting all my software, pictures, etc on this one until I'm sure it's not going to poop out. 



What I gave up in screen size I gained in coolness. Yes, even at (insert undisclosed age), coolness counts. HAHA! Sleek, good speakers, fast-Fast-FAST, and I love the keyboard. Let's see if this one can hold its own against me. (At least this one has an eject button!) Once I figure out how to use the built in webcam, I'll snap a picture for y'all, unless it's a bad hair day.

In other news, my kidlets need more prayer. A bug is passing from one to the next. Ugh.

Monday, May 18, 2009

ULTERIOR MOTIVES

Hmmm....I wonder how often this type of secret operation happens--my curious thoughts as I read this book. Certain elements are a bit on the fantastical side, but mostly I kept thinking how interesting it is to see on the inside of secret government operations. A fast-paced read that shines through with hope. If you follow current events and enjoy action-oriented stories, then this is a great book for you!



This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Ulterior Motive

Bethany House (March 1, 2009)

by

Mark Andrew Olsen



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

MARK ANDREW OLSEN whose novel The Assignment was a Christy Award finalist, also collaborated on bestsellers Hadassah (now the major motion picture: One Night With the King), The Hadassah Covenant, and Rescued. Two of his last books were the supernatural thriller The Watchers, and The Warriors.

The son of missionaries to France, Mark is a Professional Writing graduate of Baylor University. He and his wife, Connie, live in Colorado Springs with their three children.


ABOUT THE BOOK

When an al-Qaeda email is intercepted, threatening an attack on America, it leads to the capture of the group's leader. Yet even under fierce interrogation, the terrorist clings to his jihadist beliefs and refuses to divulge any information. Desperate, the Army resorts to extreme measures--a controversial protocol designed to break a subject's resistance. But the attempt must be masked as an offer of clemency and rely on an outside party, someone who is unaware of the protocol's aims.

They find that someone in Greg Cahill, a disgraced soldier who now serves in a prison ministry. Lured by the chance to restore his reputation, Greg befriends a man the entire country despises. And the result proves combustible, the two men having to flee for their lives. With both in need of redemption, they set out to prevent a major catastrophe...

If you would like to read the first chapter of Ulterior Motive, go HERE

Saturday, May 16, 2009

MOM'S THE WORD

Settling in with a Marilynn Griffith book is like snuggling under a warm blanket. Her gentleness and spiritual maturity shine through on each page, and that's true with Mom's the Word. Grab a cup of tea and curl up in your favorite chair--you're in for a treat!



It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Mom's the Word

Steeple Hill (January 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Marilynn Griffith is the author of eight novels, mother to seven children, wife to a deacon and proof of God’s enduring mercy. She has served as national Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers and has served on faculty at several national writers conferences. When she’s not writing about friendship, family and faith, Marilynn blogs and speaks to women and writers.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $6.99
Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Steeple Hill (January 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0373786417
ISBN-13: 978-0373786411

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


THEY COME SOFTLY


They come softly, like the kiss of

newborn skin. Words, brushing my

Heels as I head for the kitchen, bruising my

Heart as life reaches for my hand.


Stirring the morning against my

Belly, I listen as they sift through my

Fingers, stories I’ve never heard,

Places I’ve never known.


Pouring into the pitcher of my

Day, they blow by. I open my

Hand, trying to catch a phrase,

To hold what cannot be held.


Love beckons, Purpose calls,

Drowning out the whisper words

Skating, out of place like fall leaves

Across the summer of my soul.


Truth swallows Hope, drowns the

Words. I squint against the glare

Of throaty screams and scarred

Earth, listening, wondering

If they’ll ever come again.


--Karol,

the morning the new neighbors moved in








CHAPTER ONE


“They’re ruining everything.” The words tangled in Karol Simon’s throat.

She watched in horror as a backhoe bit into the tree house she and her family had constructed with their former neighbors and best friends Hope and Singh. The rest of the yard, including Hope’s prize-winning roses and the strawberry bush the children had planted, lay in heaped mounds of roots and blooms.

To Karol, it looked a lot like her life.

Her tears, few at first, now streamed down her face as she watched butterflies and birds flee into her yard to escape the destruction of their homes and so many of Karol’s memories. She wanted to run to her husband, to collapse into his arms . . . Instead, she pulled the curtain back further, using it to wipe her tears.

“It looks like a cemetery,” she said without turning around, certain Rob wasn’t listening.

He was. “Get away from the window, Kay. It’s rude for one thing. It’s depressing for another. Do you think I don’t know how much you miss Hope? I miss Singh too. But the Lord led them to another place, to another job, to other—”

She held up a hand. “Don’t say it.”

“I will say it. To other friends. Hope and Singh are going to find new friends. A new church. A new life in North Carolina. That doesn’t mean they’ll forget us here in Tallahassee. It’s just a chance to share them with someone else.”

Rob laid aside his Linux Pocket Guide and stood. Four strides brought him to the window. His weekend work boots struck the floor with the same confidence she heard in his voice. Not so long ago, Karol had heard the same assurance in her own voice.

Was she the same woman who’d once run Vacation Bible School and the women’s ministry committee? These days the only running she did was from herself . . . and from God. She’d expected to miss Hope, to be sad for a little while, but this was more than that.

Karol needed her.

She hadn’t realized how much her friend helped her be a good mom, a good wife. Hope had a houseful of children, seven in all, and taught her children at home. She’d taught Karol a lot about being a mother and being a friend.

Now that the crew next door had moved away though, Karol couldn’t just pick up the phone and call. Their busy schooling schedule had been easier to interrupt when it only meant walking next door and waiting for a break in the action. Now when Karol called, she got the answering machine indicating the family’s school hours.

In the evenings, Hope was tired with moving in at first and then Karol started to unravel and didn’t want to call and detail her failures. She called her friend less and less these days and seemed to lose it more and more. And her husband was starting to notice.

That was the part that made her heart pound as Rob took her hand. Her pulse quickened too, both in anticipation and fear. Things had grown awkward between them. Rusty. She wasn’t ready to deal with him quite yet, though Lemon Pledge and sawdust were a hard combination to ignore.

He knew it too. Rob stood close behind her, running his hands over hers until she released the curtain. He brushed away her last tear with his thumb before lacing his arms around her waist. She closed her eyes as his stubbled face prickled against her smooth one, waiting for the kiss that was sure to come. It’d be a soft one, right in the curve of her neck most likely. Even after three kids, he still knew how to buckle her knees.

He kissed her ear instead, first with his lips and then with a whisper. “I know this is hard, honey. We all knew it would be. I get up every morning and reach for the phone to call Singh to pray or to borrow a tool from him, only to realize he’s gone. I know it’s even deeper with you and Hope, but maybe God has a purpose in this, for us as well as them.

“We’ll see them soon enough. Charlotte isn’t that far away. They mentioned coming down for Ryan’s birthday, remember? And we’re taking Mia over for Mia’s party next month. Until then, I figure we can work on some things between us—you and I. For starters, I was thinking that maybe I could be your best friend again.”

Karol swallowed hard and closed her eyes, drinking in this closeness with her husband. There had been a time before, when Hope and Karol had been close, but she and Rob had been closer. He had been her world. Then storms came and shook their little marriage tree, blowing away some of blossoms, shaking off much of the fruit.

Hope had helped her push things down in the soil again, prayer by prayer, day by day. Now Karol would have to do that alone. Rob wanted to help, to be friends, but there were things that she used to tell Hope that she just couldn’t say to her husband. What would he do if he knew that sometimes she didn’t like her life or herself? What would he think if he knew that sometimes she just wanted to run away?

He’d think that you’re human, Karol. He is too.

When women from church had come to Karol for advice about their marriages, she’d reminded them that they’d married sinners, broken people who continued to need forgiveness once the honeymoon was over. It had all made so much sense to her back then, until the stitches on her own marriage had loosened. Before then, she’d never understood those couples who disappeared and showed up with other spouses, the ones who lived in the same houses but drove to service in separate cars.

Those were the couples who had once been friends with Karol and Rob, part of the couples ministry that had met at Hope and Singh’s. One by one, those couples had disappeared: divorced, separated, moved away… They had discovered, as Karol had, that family came at a cost, that love required effort.

Rob kissed the top of her ear again and tightened his hands around her. She rested back against him and wondered if he wasn’t trying to get her to hear him. To really listen. Sometimes that was so hard to do, even though Karol tried.

She was blessed to be this man’s wife, the mother of her children. And now here she was, coming undone over new neighbors. Once more, she lifted her hand to the curtains, a green gingham set Hope had taught her to make during the months after Mia was born, the summer of darkness. At the thought of those hard days, her worst postpartum depression ever, Karol let the fabric fall from her fingers. Nothing was worth going back there.

Her husband ran a hand through her hair. “I mean it. I want to be your best friend.”

She turned to face Rob, trying to ignore the creaking sound as the tree house toppled to the ground next door. Would these strangers burn the wood they’d all signed and decorated or should she go over and beg for it? No, it was their house now. She had to let it go. All of it.

Karol tried to laugh but it came out more like a groan. She punched Rob’s shoulder lightly, then squeezed it.

“You are my best friend, silly. You’re just not acting like it. Hope wouldn’t take their side against me.”

Rob’s dimples appeared but his eyes went dull. She’d chosen to stay on the surface of things, skimming across the hurt he wanted to dive into. He joined her in the chit chat with a reluctant smile. “Whose side? The new neighbors’? Or the kids’?”

“Both.” Karol stared at him, once again wondering how he’d ended up with her. He had a careless beauty about him, a bearing that made him look like a king in a pair of jeans. Three kids had moved her body parts to new zip codes and left her face looking more like her mother’s than she wanted to admit, but except for the sprinkles of gray in Rob’s beard, he looked the same as the day they’d wed. Unless you looked close at the years in his eyes, he didn’t look much different from the husband of the young couple who’d moved in next door. Was this how the two of them had seemed to Hope and Singh? She peered through the window again, trying to convince herself otherwise.

The woman, “Dianne with a y” as Hope called her, shouted over the noise for the men to dig up a shrub they’d missed. No, she and Rob hadn’t been quite like this. This was a new kind of crazy. And from the way things were going in Carol’s house, it must be contagious.

“The kids are definitely out of control. It seems like they’re screaming at me every minute now. Like they’ve totally forgotten how to communicate.”

Rob’s look conveyed his thoughts but he voiced them anyway. “Maybe we’ve forgotten how to communicate, Hon. Things have been hard lately. They lost their best friends too. There’s no one to play with. Naturally they’re going to be a little out of sync.”

Out of sync? “Judah tried to put Mia in the dryer yesterday, Rob. Ryan hid in the closet reading a book so that he didn’t have to deal with his siblings during the whole ordeal. When they found him, he shut them in there!

“They are more than out of sync. And don’t start with that ‘we’ve forgotten how to communicate’ stuff. I know what you really mean. You mean I’ve forgotten how to communicate.”

Rob scratched his head. “I didn’t mean that, but since you mentioned it—you have been screaming quite a bit lately. It seems like we’re going back in time. I have to catch myself. Yesterday, I almost started screaming too.”

Karol rolled her eyes. As if. “You did not.”

More dimples. “Okay, so I didn’t, but I thought about it. Anyway, I am on your side, both with the kids and with the neighbors. I just don’t think you’re seeing the big picture right now because you’re hurting over losing Hope. Singh got a good opportunity there. He prayed about it and chose, with Hope, to make this move. Don’t forget that. We will get through this. I’d rather come out of it with a good relationship with our kids…and our neighbors.”

Karol couldn’t help being stung by the truth in Rob’s words. The move had been unexpected, an near parallel offer for Singh with a possibility of advancement. A slim possibility. And yet, Hope hadn’t thought twice about leaving her behind.

was right, of course. Singh was her husband. Hope’s only contradiction had been the house. None of them had believed that it would sell—for so much and so quickly. It was a deal they couldn’t refuse. A God thing. And yet, Karol couldn’t help feeling as though someone had ripped the rug out from under her.

More like the security blanket.

“You want to have a good relationship with those two? Even if they’re insane? I mean look at them.” She pointed out the window. ”They’re so…so…”

Rob planted his chin on her shoulder. “What? Young?”

“Skinny!” Karol said, louder than she’d meant to. Was the window still cracked from airing out the living room after Mia’s pull-up explosion this morning? Surely not. Her husband chuckled and she laughed too, in spite of her efforts not to. “I’m serious. They’re skinny and young and weird and they have no kids.”

“We were skinny and young and weird and when we moved in next to Hope and Singh, Kay.”

“I was never skinny,” Karol said, taking a deep breath.

“Thank God,” her husband whispered, slipping a hand in her back pocket. “But I was definitely weird. Remember how I slammed the door on Singh that first time he came over?”

“Well, in your defense, not many people serenade their new neighbors…especially people who are tone deaf. If he’d just handed you the pie, things would have gone much smoother.”

Her words slowed as her new neighbor, dressed in a celery-colored suit and tangerine pumps, tripped over the wood pile Singh had kindly left behind. “Dianne with a y” stared down at the timber in confusion and shook her head before motioning for someone to cart it away.

Karol shook her head too. “Okay, so we were a little goofy at first, but these people are unbelievable. She looked at that wood pile like it was going to come alive and eat her. Surely she saw the woodstove when they bought the house. It’s one of the best features.”

Rob stroked her hair. “It’s not Hope’s house anymore. Let it go, Mom.”

Mom. It’d been funny when Rob first started calling her that, but now it’d worn thin. She’d started it first of course by calling Rob Dad, only to abandon it when he returned the favor. Where had she gotten that from anyway? She closed her eyes.

Hope and Singh.

It fit them. It didn’t fit Karol. She wanted, needed, a name again. “I’m trying, Rob.” His name rolled of her tongue before she could call it back, say it better. Say it like she used to, in the sweet, husky tone he loved. Instead, it came out nasal and high pitched, almost as piercing as the cry from upstairs.

He gave her a funny look and lifted his head as if he were going to ask her something before their youngest child and only girl Mia let out one of her signature siren screams.

“Mooooooooooooom!”

Karol pinched her eyes shut. Her four-year-old-going-on-fifty was either going to be an opera singer or a very good referee. Either way, naptime was over. Not that it had ever started really, but after little Mia’s poopy finger painting incident this morning and five-year-old Judah’s egg juggling at lunch (“I thought they were boiled!”), her three children, especially the oldest who only liked to encounter body fluids on the page of a book, had gladly escaped to their rooms.

Now they were up and ready to roll and she’d been too busy staring at the mess next door to get together an activity for them. After a morning of Saturday cartoons, Karol liked to keep the TV off in the afternoons. Until lately anyway.

Her oldest son, Ryan, must have been thinking the same thing because he switched off the TV and started reading his younger brother and sister a story. Though only few weeks shy of his eleventh birthday, Ryan had an old soul. His younger brother and sister drove him crazy and often interrupted the book he always seemed to be reading, but Ryan always knew what everyone needed—especially Karol. She mouthed a thank you to him. He replied with a curt nod, which meant she’d probably have to make it up to him with brownies.

Karol wrapped an arm around her husband’s, bare to the elbow and hairy as ever. Her mother called him Sasquatch. To his face. She was not always a kind woman. Karol thanked God that Rob was a kind man. Too kind sometimes. She pinched her eyes tight, shutting out her new neighbors, her old memories and the sound of her two youngest children tumbling down the stairs.

“I’ve got it, Mom.” Ryan said quietly, still holding the book as he collected the two gymnasts. “Keep talking. Nobody’s hurt.”

Karol was headed to check anyway, but Rob pulled her back. “Ryan wants to grow up a little. Let him. Besides, you need a break. I’ll go and take them all out in a few minutes.”

“I don’t deserve you,” she whispered into Rob’s shoulder.

He lifted her chin and leaned in, finding Karol’s lips this time. The brevity and passion of the kiss took her by surprise. Rob’s love was like that: quiet, but powerful, coming alive when she least expected it. When she most needed it. “You don’t deserve me, Kay. You deserve better.”

She slumped against him, never knowing what to say when he was like this. When life was like this. Paint rubbed off on her arm as she twined her hands behind his neck. Her eyes narrowed, first at her husband and then at the window. She’d repainted enough kid-dingy walls to know white washable paint when she saw it. This wasn’t it. It was ecru or eggshell or some other frou frou color. A color for city people who bulldozed yards and ran off friends… “Are you helping them?”

Rob didn’t answer. He shrugged instead. Inwardly, Karol did too. He could only be who he was, her husband. He didn’t know how to be anything but giving and kind.

I wish I could say the same for myself.

Right now, Karol wasn’t sure who she was. Her middle son was glad to clear that up for her.

“Mom!” A pair of hands slipped between the two of them, adhering to the front of Karol’s shirt. The very front. Though she’d weaned her son Judah years before, he still seemed to find a use for the parts which had once fed him. The current choice? Doorknobs into Mommy world. Very effective, Karol had to admit.

Rob peeled his son from Karol’s shirt and lifted him into his arms. “Judah, don’t touch your mother there, okay? And go wash your hands—”

“But Dad—”

“No buts, son. Mom and I were talking. Use your manners.” He winked at Karol and took one step before the next child, little Mia, barreled into the room, wearing her bathing suit from last summer. Hadn’t they given that to Eden, Hope’s youngest girl, before they moved away?

“Moooooom! Judah ‘it me!”

Both adults stared at the oldest brother, Ryan, who’d just entered the room, hoping for a translation of their only daughter’s language. Only he knew this latest version of Mia-latin. She removed the first consonant of all incriminating words. In this case, the first sound meant a big difference. While hitting his little sister was enough to get Judah into a mess, biting her would be even worse.

Karol rubbed her arm thinking of how bad his biting had been when he was a toddler. Hope had helped her through that too. Her middle child hadn’t bit anyone in three full years now and she prayed that losing his friends wouldn’t start him up again.

Ryan’s translation skills didn’t disappoint, but their budding young man looked plenty frustrated. Sharing a room with his little brother was ‘stagnating’ or at least that was the latest update he’d given Karol and Rob before putting his little brother’s things into the hall to make room for his books. Puberty came a lot earlier these days evidently.

“She said hit not bit. But Mom—”

A banging sound echoed from down the hall. Karol and Rob looked at each other and at Ryan with panic in their eyes. Judah unattended usually meant disaster.

Rob moved first. “Where did he go to wash his hands? Bathroom?”

Karol screamed. “Kitchen!”

If there was ever a sure way to catch up with the plumber, it was Judah alone in the kitchen. Karol picked up Mia, taking a wide step to leave room for Rob, who ran to check the bathrooms just in case Judah was clogging some fixture instead of scrambling eggs on the kitchen floor.

Just the thought of what might be happening made Karol’s heart pound. She wanted to scream at him so loud that the people next door would hear and run away screaming too. But inside her head, Hope was there, as sure as if she was sitting on that battered couch in the corner.

Man’s anger doesn’t achieve the righteousness of God, Kay. A mother’s anger doesn’t accomplish much either. You have the authority. Use it wisely. Don’t waste it screaming.

Another tear salted the corner of Karol’s eye and she rounded the corner in time to catch a glimpse of Judah’s superhero cape fluttering away from the scene of the crime. Karol tucked her daughter under one arm like a football and headed for the kitchen. Her socks glided across the laminate and into a pile of . . . hamburger, the meat for the church potluck. Rob ran into Judah in the hall and grabbed him up just as he was about to take a bite of meat that he’d taken as a souvenir.

Karol froze, unable to do anything but stare as she calculated the cost of the food her son had fed to the floor.

And just when I’d splurged on the grain fed beef too.

The perpetrator returned. “Mom! See my burger? My bur-ger!” Judah cried, wiggling in his father’s arms and pointing to the bloody mound on the floor.

Karol paused, looking into Rob’s eyes, the same eyes she’d looked into on her wedding day and she could swim in their chocolate depths forever. Back then, love meant flowers and candy. Now it meant capture and cleanup. Lines etched those eyes now and a frost of wisdom sprinkled Rob’s beard, but he’d never looked better to her.

“Do you want to deal with meat or munchkins?” he asked.

Neither. Today, just want to sit down in the corner and have a quiet talk with my friend.

Karol smiled. Outwardly anyway. The never-ending discipline that Judah seemed to require wore her out. She’d let Rob be the bad guy today. “I’ll take hamburger. And let’s blow up the pool. I know they’re used to being outside all summer. I have to go outside some time.”

Something like sunshine spread over Rob’s face. He slapped the back of her jeans. “That’s my girl.”

Judah made a gagging sound and ran ahead of his dad up the stairs. “Cover your eyes, Mia, they’re gonna kiss!”

“Ewwww!” Mia said before shielding her face from such the horror.

Ryan pulled a book from the pocket of his cargo shorts and walked away from all of them. He probably wouldn’t surface until dinner, when he’d have started another book with a similar cover—dragons and swords—but a different name. Every now and then he showed up with a book of theology or philosophy, which probably worried Karol more than the dragons. Ryan was growing up too fast. They all were. And she wasn’t keeping pace with them.

As Rob’s lips met hers in a fake kiss just to freak out the kids, Karol laughed softly. Laughing was definitely better than crying.

Rob gave her a wink that meant the real kisses would come later. She watched as he left the kitchen and started toward the stairs. He stopped halfway and turned back. “I know this is hard, Kay. But it’s going to be all right. Really. I just feel it in my gut.”

What gut? Any knowledge held in Rob’s six-pack was less than reassuring. If there’d been a feeling in Karol’s non-existent abs that might really be something. It’d be hard to locate, but it’d be something. Still, she knew he meant well and was probably right. He usually was.

“You’re right, honey,” she said, reaching for a trash bag and hoping that what he’d said was true. Anything could happen. The new neighbors might even turn out okay.

Probably not.

Not for Karol anyway. For Rob, well, everything would be fine. He’d already gotten over losing Singh as though he’d barely known the man. Sure the two of them were better about email—Hope wasn’t much of a computer person—but still the two men didn’t talk anywhere near as much as they once had. The kids still asked for Heidi-Katie-Lizzie-Tony-Aaron-Annie-Eden-and-Bone-the-dog at least once a day, but their pleas were much less urgent. They’d be fine too.

Karol might not be fine, she was starting to realize as the manic mama feelings tumbled in her stomach. There was none of Rob’s confidence to settle it. The clump of ground beef slid easily into the bag, but scrubbing the floor proved harder. Everything seemed harder. Had the past ten years been a dream? Had she ever had Hope’s consistency or Rob’s calmness? She’d thought so until the moving van took her best friend away. Could she be a good mom without Hope?

The question that sprung to her heart in response took Karol’s breath away:

The question is, can you be a good mom without Me?

#

The ceiling fan whirred above Rob slowly, breathing the first breath of summer into his upstairs bedroom. Though it was only April by the calendar, summer was always a breath away in Tallahassee, drowned only by the rains that began in October and trickled through spring. The bright, hot victory of summer retaking her throne usually happened on a May morning, but on this night in late April, Rob felt the humidity that signaled the rise of the order of the sun.

Usually, he welcomed summer. It meant more time outdoors with fresh earth and the soft, brown skin of his wife and children. In the north Florida sun—which often seemed to have the red, patient glow of the peachy rays of south Georgia—nothing could be hidden or covered up. In the end, sweat and sweet tea trickled into everything, seeping between the finest fabrics, the best of plans. By summer’s end, there was never anything left unknown.

Not without a price.

As Rob slipped from his king-sized bed and stepped onto the still-cool cherry wood floor that he’d installed with his own hands, he wondered if the price would not turn out to be higher than his marriage could afford to pay.

He took the phone into the bathroom, thankful that Karol slept like a log, especially on hot nights like this with the smell of crepe myrtle syrupy and sweet in the air. For once though, he almost wished she’d wake up and overhear his conversation, saving him from being torn between his best friend…and the love of his life.

Rob’s fingers eased quickly over the phone’s keypad. Though his friend had been gone for weeks now, Singh’s cell phone number still stuck in Rob’s head like a familiar song.

Singh picked up on the first ring, probably in his bathroom too. “Hello? Rob?”

A sigh. “It’s me. Did you tell her yet? Hope, I mean?”

His friend didn’t answer which was an answer in itself.

“You’re killing me here, man. Kaye is going crazy. Today was really rough. On the kids too. Weekends are the worst. At least they have school now, but that’s only for another month and Mia’s here all the time—”

“Forgive me.”

The words made Rob swallow hard. How many times had he called this number and said the same phrase in the past ten years? He and Singh were prayer partners, accountable to one another in their walk with God, their actions as fathers and husbands. So many times they’d both fallen short of being the men they wanted to be, but one of them had always been there to hear, to believe, to pray.

When the tables turned a few years ago and Singh was the one calling Rob asking for prayer, it had been strange at first. Though theirs had been a great friendship, Rob had always felt himself to be the student and Singh the teacher. He’d had to address his own sin of holding Singh up to a standard of perfection no man could meet. It hadn’t been easy to get over though and sometimes Rob still wondered if he wasn’t harder on Singh than he might have been toward some stranger who’d walked into the men’s ministry group asking for prayer.

And yet, those two words—forgive me—reminded Rob of his own humanity and weakness. He was no better than his friend. No better at all.

Forgive me, Lord, Rob whispered in his heart. Forgive us all.

“All is forgiven, brother. I love you. I’m just worried that this is going to turn bad for both of us if we don’t do what we agreed upon. We were both supposed to tell our wives by now. True enough, you have more to tell and it won’t be easy, but we both know it has to be done.”

“Yes.”

More than a minute went by without speaking, but Rob wasn’t worried. He knew that Singh was praying. He was too.

Karol stirred in the next room.

“I’m going to have to go, man.”

“Yes. Me too. Quickly though. How is it with the neighbors? The man, Neal? I know that the girls are worried about the wife but I had a good feeling about him. Both of them. The same feeling I had when the two of you came.”

In the dark of the bathroom, Rob nodded to himself. Though the new neighbors weren’t very friendly and his wife wasn’t very fond of them, he had a feeling that somehow they would all end up as friends. What worried him was the future of their relationship with Hope and Singh.

“I hope we did the right thing.”

Singh grunted in agreement. “As do I.”

Without saying goodnight, the two men hung up and crawled back into bed with their sleeping wives.

One of them, however, was not sleeping.

From MOM’S THE WORD, by Marilynn Griffith, Steeple Hill

ISBN 0373786417, January 2009, Copyright © 2009 by Harlequin Enterprises

Limited. ® and tm are trademarks of the publisher. This edition published by

arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

WAH!...AND A HEADCOUNT

If you're a part of ACFW, then you saw the announcement today for the opening of conference registration. I imagine many of you signed up promptly. The last two years I was one of the first people to elbow into line, and I'd assumed early on that I would be this year too.

However, with the purchase of the infamous Dell (which is somewhere in Illinois, according to UPS, and won't be here until Tuesday and is getting switched out anyway), I'll be staying home. My precious, generous hubby--reference my bio--offered to let me go, despite spending $$ on the laptop. What a great guy! But alas, I do not feel peace in my heart about doing so--reference last Friday's post. Barring a miracle, I'll be home watching reruns of George Lopez while y'all are hanging out in the lounge laughing it up.

There's my "Wah"--now I'd like to know who is going. I'm sure this year is going to be a blast, and I do hope/pray that those of you who can make it to conference have an awesome time. Headcount!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

EASY COME...EASY GO...NEED ADVICE...

Seriously, talk about high-highs, and low-lows. 

Here I was all super excited about my new laptop. I transferred all my documents (think books, chapters, proposals), and downloaded software, and changed settings. 

Lo and behold, in the late afternoon after spending scads of time fine-tuning/tweaking/setting, I put in the CD to download the software for my camcorder, and the laptop started to wheeze. And sputter. (For the record, sputtering is not a good sign.) I hit the eject button, and...

...nothing.

Multiple times I hit the eject button, and Dell refused to give it up. You see, it's a little touch pad thingy, and not an actual mechanical eject.

Sorry to say, I had to take it into the Geek Squad, and even the neighborhood geeks could do nothing. Thankfully, Best Buy was super awesome about ordering me a new laptop since mine went kaput. Until it arrives, I stole my daughter's.

Here's my dilemma:  I'm terrified that the same thing is going to happen with the new one, and naturally it could/would happen after the warranty expires. Should I stick with Dell Studio 17, or move on to something else? I loathe spending more money, as you all know, but I might have to in order to get something I feel comfortable using for the next several years.

What do you own/recommend? Why/why not? Need advice!!!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

DID I MENTION HOW GENEROUS...

...my husband is?

Mother's Day was a smash hit around here. We got to spend time together, and with family that we hadn't seen in a long time. Plus we had a satisfying meal and good times. Too bad I didn't get photos! (I'm so bad about that.)

My oldest daughter purchased an old movie that I love but never see out anymore, called Not Without My Daughter. My precious hubby started the day with flowers and creme brulee, and ended the day with a GC to Barnes & Noble, awesome sandals, and....

......a new laptop!

All I did was mention that Best Buy had the Consumer Reports laptop pick and that I really really wanted it. Yesterday afternoon he took me down to the store and made the purchase. Instead of an Acer Aspire 15", I now have a Dell Studio 17" with all the bells and whistles. 

The really cool thing is that, aside from showing my husband's generous nature (look at my bio in the sidebar), this gesture shows that he believes in me and what I'm working toward with the writing. Remember last Friday's post? While I still question how much time/energy/resources to devote to what is essentially amounting to a hobby, I know that my husband backs me up and is in full support of my journey.

And that is priceless.

Friday, May 08, 2009

HOW FAR WILL YOU GO?

This week, while waiting for my daughter's rehearsal to end, I took the tots to the bookstore, and guess what I found? The Fire in Fiction, by Donald Maass. The first few pages are a gold mine and really make a writer think about their heart motivation for putting ink to paper.

He discusses the differences between status seekers and storytellers--which you've probably seen discussed to the nth degree on other blogs and websites. The main point I gleaned was that status seekers are concerned with getting a contract/a bigger contract/more marketing-and-attention, and storytellers are concerned with telling a bigger better story and continually improving. 

As someone struggling to break in, I can totally relate to the description of a status seeker. Here's a quote: "What the status seeker wants is a contract. He wants to know that his years of effort will pay off."  

I have to admit that this is me. Knowing how much time, love, effort, and attention writing takes, and knowing how much sacrifice goes into creating each book, who wouldn't want to know that the effort will pay off? Perhaps I have the wrong motivation and should be content to write for an audience of One, write for the pleasure of creating stories and escaping for that bit of blessed time each day. 

However, when does all the time spent on writing--away from family activities, chores, other obligations--become a selfish pursuit? When writing benefits no one but myself, can I really justify it in good conscience? And if I only spend truly "free time" on writing--when there's truly nothing else on my plate waiting to be done--would I ever produce more than a few paragraphs here and there? 

My question to you is, how far will you go with this writing thing before you lay it aside? Are you a true storyteller who'll write whether or not you ever see a contract? For those of you already contracted, will you continue to write no matter what the editors/public say, continue against criticism? Or are you like me, thinking that in practical terms I'll have to give it up one day if there is no visible fruit/results for the time and devotion spent? Yes, I absolutely want to grow and mature and be the best that I can possibly be, but at what cost?


Thursday, May 07, 2009

UPDATE:

In the middle of this week's chaos, which is, thankfully, better than last week's chaos, I wanted to post an update on a few things I've mentioned recently.

Remember the panic post when the numbers on the scale spun like a slot machine? Well, I'm happy to report that I've lost 4.5 pounds. (Had to get that .5 in there!!!) And for the record: Don't. Tell. Me. It's. Water. Weight. I just couldn't take it =P

And I'm steadily breaking in my new Bible. I've now read Genesis, and have been reminded that God knows how to handle shady characters, and He chooses the most unlikely people. I fit right in. The more I read, the more I crave the time alone in the Word. God still speaks!

Yesterday I hit SEND on my WIP, and wow does it feel gooood! 

Sometimes it's nice to remember in the middle of this whirlwind we call life, that at least some progress is being made in personal areas that aren't always obvious to those around us--you know, those people who expect to be fed and clothed, listened to and coddled, and most of all, chauffeured. HAHA--I'm sure some of you can relate.

Have you made personal progress you'd like to report?
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